Alan Thomson reports from the Labour Party conference in Blackpool
Education secretary David Blunkett has promised more funds for higher and further education in this autumn's funding announcements.
Speaking at the Labour Party conference in Blackpool, Mr Blunkett said that the settlement for years two and three, 2000-01 and 2001-02, of the comprehensive spending review would be better than that for 1999-2000.
"Next year, we have made an extra Pounds 550 million available for further and higher education, and that's just the beginning of the programme," Mr Blunkett told delegates at a Labour Students fringe meeting on Tuesday.
"I will be saying more about years two and three in the autumn, and all I can say is that years two and three will be better than year one."
Mr Blunkett also said that colleges and universities would easily surpass the target set by Prime Minister Tony Blair at last year's conference of an extra 500,000 students by 2002.
But he acknowledged the sharp fall in university applications by people over 21. This contrasts with this year's record number of school-leaver applications, despite the introduction of tuition fees. Mr Blunkett said:
"There is a real danger of mature students being turned off. It is a challenge for all of us."
Mr Blunkett said he would encourage universities to offer out-reach and extramural courses. Although this is the pattern across the country, the education secretary said, there is evidence that universities are pulling out of this kind of work.
He also raised more doubts about the future of training and enterprise councils and their Pounds 1.3 billion annual budget. Mr Blunkett said that there were good and bad TECs, and the government is reviewing them.